Small Software Developer Challenges Microsoft And Google With Free Operating System - InformationWeek

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3/8/2007
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Small Software Developer Challenges Microsoft And Google With Free Operating System

Xcerion's XML-based XIOS runs inside a Web browser.

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Attracting developers is Xcerion's focus now. It has a fair shot at succeeding because its integrated development environment, an XML-based visual programming system, allows for extremely rapid development. It's orders of magnitude easier than, say, C++ or Java, Arthursson says, noting that it took him 30 minutes to develop an RSS-reader application and a few months to develop a PowerPoint clone.

When Xcerion launches XIOS, it expects to have a free productivity suite that initially will run only inside Internet Explorer and Firefox. Support for Apple's Safari and Opera is planned.

To provide incentives for third-party developers to write applications for its system, the back-end system is designed to route revenue either from subscription fees or ads served to users of free programs to application authors. Xcerion will take 10% to 20% of the proceeds, Arthursson says. The exact portion has yet to be decided.

If XIOS proves appealing to developers, Xcerion's open software-as-a-service platform could offer a far more diverse set of applications than controlled SaaS platforms like Google. "You can add more functionality yourself with our system," says Arthursson. "Google only provides the applications they develop."

Because XIOS was built from the ground up, it includes an answer to two of the most vexing computing issues today: collaboration and keeping files backed up and synchronized across multiple machines and operating systems. Its transaction engine can mirror local files in the cloud and distribute them to others, letting users collaborate on the same XML document.

XIOS has limitations. It can't handle advanced motion graphics for gaming, though it works with other browser-based software like Adobe's Flash; it isn't well suited for mobile phones; and it needs to prove itself in terms of speed. What's also missing is a sense that the tech industry believes in the approach. People testing XIOS aren't ready to speak publicly, Arthursson says.

Xcerion's initial impact is more likely to be felt by Salesforce.com's AppExchange, a similar though more limited approach to customized app development, than by Google or Microsoft. Three to five years out, Xcerion may offer far more applications than Google's and Microsoft's controlled, select sets of online apps. It remains to be seen which is more appealing to developers and the public, but the openness of the operating system and a platform that pays sound promising.

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